"The role is to get those who have perished on the island and have them returned ... we just want to bring everyone home,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who had previously refused to let the retrieval teams onto White Island.
Six bodies have been removed from White Island in New Zealand four days after a volcano erupted and despite increased chance of the volcano erupting again.
After repeated refusals to retrieve the eight bodies believed to be on White Island off the Bay of Plenty on New Zealand’s North Island after the volcanic eruption, authorities relented and sent in specialist officers to find the bodies and take them the 50km to Whakatāne.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told ABC Radio National in Australia: “We are in the middle of the operation and have had defence force personnel (on the island) since 7.20am.”
“The role is to get those who have perished on the island and have them returned … we just want to bring everyone home.”
There was enough equipment on the island for the “smallish team” to be there for several hours, but there was also a need to be as fast as possible in the recovery.
“My hope is that it won’t be too much longer. The desire is to do the job properly … we are dealing with people’s loved ones.”
NZ Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said that police were only aware where six of the eight bodies were. Defence force staff would have limited time on the ground to be able to search for the remaining two, he said.
It is believed that one of the bodies is of tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, whose brother Mark pleaded with New Zealand Prime Minister to be able to retrieve his brother’s body, which had been found 24 hours after White Island’s volcano erupted with hot ash and vapour spewing more than 3km into the air.
Mark Inman told the New Zealand Herald it feels “fantastic” to have the recovery mission underway.
“It’s almost like a relief now it’s happening. It’s going to allow us to grieve and send our loved ones off in the manner they deserve,” Mark Inman said.
He said it was “fantastic” that the authorities had listened to his demand and the recovery was taking place despite there being a 50-60% chance of another eruption on the island within 24 hours according to GNS Science.
It is understood Marshall-Inman was killed when he went back to help others after the first eruption. There were 47 people, tourists and tour guides on the privately-owned island when the volcano erupted. It is believed eight bodies remained on the island and authorities have retrieved the six bodies that they located.
At least eight people have been killed and 23 people were battling life-threatening injuries at hospitals throughout New Zealand, which has asked the US for 1.2 million square centimetres of skin for the victims. Some patients have burns to 90 or 95%t of their bodies.
Five people have been transferred to Australia, with seven more expected to arrive today (Friday Australian time).
Jason Griffiths, 33, of Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia, died in a hospital last night, his family said in a statement. He was one of two people to die last night.
Griffiths was travelling with Karla Mathews, 32 and her partner Richard Elzer who are still missing on White Island and presumed dead.
Six people have been officially listed as dead including Gavin Dallow and his stepdaughter Zoe Hosking, of Adelaide, in South Australia, Whakatāne local and tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, an unnamed Malaysian tourist, and Brisbane mother Julie Richards, 47, and her 20-year-old daughter Jessica.
Lisa Dallow, 48, is being treated in Melbourne Alfred Hospital’s special burns unit. She suffered 57% burns to her body and internal injuries.